On Manufacturing Day, a closer look at the biopharmaceutical sector’s contributions

Megan Van Etten
Megan Van Etten October 4, 2019


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Each year, the first Friday in October marks Manufacturing Day, an annual recognition of the critical role manufacturing-intensive industries play in powering innovation and generating jobs and economic growth for Americans. Some may not think about manufacturing when they think about their medicines, but America’s biopharmaceutical sector has a significant advanced manufacturing footprint.

The U.S. biopharmaceutical industry leads in developing and bringing innovative medicines to patients around the world, and is also a global leader in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, with companies building, employing and innovating in communities across the country. In 2018, biopharmaceutical research and development (R&D) and manufacturing generated $54.7 billion in exports — an all-time high. Biopharmaceutical companies also operate over 1,100 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and manufacture 16 of the top 20 brand medicines here in the USA.

The biopharmaceutical industry also stands out as a leader in manufacturing in several important ways, including:

  • Significant economic impacts: Between 2000 and 2016 the U.S. biopharmaceutical sector outpaced all other manufacturing industries in economic output growth. Further, the value of the sector’s labor productivity is nearly three times greater than that of other sectors with a significant manufacturing footprint, and biopharmaceutical manufacturing wages are 72% higher than the average wage for all U.S. manufacturing.
  • Advanced, innovation-led industry: Biopharmaceutical manufacturing is considered an “advanced” manufacturing industry, driven by high levels of innovation and R&D. The sector’s R&D intensity is 5 times greater than the average R&D intensity for all U.S. manufacturing industries. As both a leading manufacturer and an advanced, innovation-intensive industry, the biopharmaceutical sector is able to provide high-quality employment across a range of fields, power groundbreaking R&D and drive sustained growth across the U.S. economy.
  • Specialized and highly regulated manufacturing processes: Biopharmaceutical manufacturing is complex, conducted under particularly strict regulatory and quality standards, and is the critical link between the discovery of a new medicine and patients. Biopharmaceutical manufacturing processes and technologies must constantly evolve to keep pace with innovative breakthroughs and scientific advances made possible through sustained R&D. As a result, the manufacturing solutions found within biopharmaceutical sector–such as single-use systems, continuous manufacturing and advanced purification technologies—are particularly notable.

Undoubtedly, the United States biopharmaceutical industry is a global manufacturing powerhouse, contributing to the American economy and workforce, and supporting patients around the world. However, this seat at the head of the table is not to be taken for granted. Increasingly, international competitors are challenging the U.S. for its position as the world’s leading biopharmaceutical innovator. To maintain this foothold and sustain benefits reaped from American biopharmaceutical manufacturing, it’s imperative that policymakers support pro-innovation policies and trade agreements that foster a strong intellectual property system, promote a well-functioning and evidence-based regulatory system, and advance policies that support future breakthroughs.

Topics: Economic Impact, Manufacturing